Talking Point: Are Rereleases Killing the Retro Market?
Posted by Karl Thomson
We sink our teeth into plummeting retro prices
MTV Multiplayer recently published an article detailing the decline in value of sought-after videogame classics after their rerelease on download platforms such as Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade. While it chronicles mainly high- profile games such as Marvel vs. Capcom 2; it’s the Nintendo releases that make for really interesting reading.
Castlevania Dracula X, the last game in the series before Symphony of the Night, was rereleased in 2007 on the PSP. The value of the SNES cart plummeted by almost half before reaching equilibrium at $67.36 now.
Castlevania Dracula X:
Three Year High: $81.25 (July '07)
Three Year Low: $45.00 (October '07)
Next up, the biggie: Chrono Trigger. Arguably the greatest 2D RPG of all time has kept its value really well, still changing hands at more or less its original asking price. It saw a DS revamp in 2008, and the collector’s price dropped by around 40%. Now you can find a copy for a reasonable $44.90.
Three Year High: $59.00 (December '07)
Three Year Low: $38.37 (November '08)
Bubble Bobble, the NES classic revels in the insanity of collector's price by reaching its 13 months high after its 2007 outing on Virtual Console, then losing more than half its value in 2009. It goes for around $12 now.
13 Month High: $21.16 (January '08)
13 Month Low: $10.10 (June '09)
While one can appreciate collectors, items and their value, it's preposterous to complain about the decreasing value. The premise of the MTV article was to show how the new distribution models for games have wreaked havoc in the collectors market by throwing values in a loop. Basic economics dictates prices go up when there is a low supply and high demand, while prices go down with a low demand and high supply. Many gamers are now eternally grateful that they can play Chrono Trigger by walking into a game store and buying a new copy instead of trawling eBay and paying over-inflated prices just because it’s rare. The physical retro market is often an exclusionary market, only letting in those who are fuelled with enough nostalgia to part with the cash needed to play some of the classics.
This brings up the somewhat dirty topic of emulation. A quick spot of Google research reveals that you can find and download just about any Nintendo game pre-GameCube with astonishing ease. Emulators, combined with the average modern computer, can produce prettier games with the added bonus of massive convenience. A slightly deeper Google search brings up fan translations that actually supersede the original, making some previously inaccessible titles available in English. ROM files don't break like cartridges do, and you don't need to hook up an older system to enjoy the game.
While ROMs have their benefits, nine times out of ten they are illegal. Games with artificially inflated prices could encourage piracy of older systems - how many average gamers can realistically afford to drop 50 or more dollars on an outdated game that is a logistical nightmare to play? Do you want to go through the massive physical and financial effort of organising a Sega CD (a piece of hardware that loves to break [Really? Mine runs like a dream - Ed]) just to see if they like Night Trap?
The modern distribution channels of WiiWare, XBLA, PSN and remakes/rereleases on portable consoles have given everyone the opportunity the chance to play or revisit classics and forgotten gems in a legal and simple manner. Buying Ogre Battle 64 on eBay for $70 doesn't benefit the publisher or developer either, now our hard-earned cash can go to people who actually deserve it. Collectors, some of us at Nintendo Life included, can sometimes forget the most important aspect of gaming is the sheer joy of it and sharing that joy with friends and peers, not silly prices. One cannot quantify fun, or joy, and playing Chrono Trigger on the move is pure bliss, whatever the price.
[Note: As MTV points out, the indicated prices are what were actually paid for the games, rather than 'value'.]